By the time you get to graduate school, you have invested everything—time, effort, dreams, and certainly money—into your education. You've worked for all of your life to get to this point. You've stayed up late to study, you've missed out on parties and trips, you've charted an academic course that allowed you to get accepted to graduate school, and it's one that you intend to get you into your dream job. You've worked hard to get here, and a mistake or a misunderstanding shouldn't be the end of your road.
What is at stake?
Any number of problems could put your scholarships, student loans, and professional opportunities in jeopardy. It's scary to think about how easily and quickly all your plans could be wrecked. Getting into trouble as an undergraduate is bad—but getting into trouble as a graduate is even worse. You have invested even more time, you've taken out more loans, you have built a reputation in your field, and you're so close to reaching your goals.
And the scariest part? You don't even know what could be your undoing. A plagiarism accusation could derail you. An error on your transcript could be the difference between getting hired or passed over for a job. A personality conflict during an internship or rotation could even lead to you getting kicked out of school. You can be accused of a code of conduct violation that could put your scholarships or loans in jeopardy for an offense as minor as missing too many days in class. Worst of all, you don't even have to be guilty for these negative outcomes to occur. In some cases, simply being accused is enough to ruin your life.
Campus Codes of Conduct
Most universities have a code of conduct that governs the lives of the students who attend. On campus, the code of conduct is, more or less, the law. While universities do not have the same power or authority as the criminal justice system, they do have the ability to destroy an academic career and, with it, professional opportunities for students. And, though the code of conduct does not have the same force as the off-campus legal system, people accused of code of conduct violations also do not have the same rights as they would in the legal system. Colleges and universities are allowed to operate a campus judicial system basically as they choose, with standards of due process, evidence, and confidentiality that do not even come close to what a defendant is assured in the regular judicial system.
If you are accused of a code a conduct violation, most likely your university's dean of students will be notified and will begin his or her own investigation into your actions. Universities can investigate and enforce violations of the code of conduct, even if the alleged activity happened off-campus. If the university determines that you did the thing you've been accused of, the formal consequences could range from probation and community service to suspension and expulsion. And the informal consequences could be just as steep, or even steeper.
Possible sanctions for student conduct cases include: written warning, disciplinary probation, restitution, restriction from areas of campus, attending classes or workshops, ordering you to complete educational projects, performing community service, relocation or removal from housing under the housing contract, removal from specific courses or activities, no contact provisions, suspension or dismissal.
Possible sanctions for academic integrity cases include: written warning, ordering you to complete educational projects, disciplinary probation, suspension, dismissal, or even the revocation of your degree.
What About My Scholarship?
If you currently use scholarship funds to finance your education, a code of conduct violation can also put your scholarship in jeopardy. Scholarship providers want to make sure that funding your education is a good investment, and they want to make sure that their investment in you doesn't reflect poorly on them. If you are found guilty of doing something that makes a scholarship provider suspect that you're something other than a good citizen, that scholarship provider can choose to withdraw the scholarship funds. Some code of conduct violations can also impact your eligibility for federal student aid, including grants and loans.
Will There Be a Record?
A violation of the university's code of conduct will almost always go on your disciplinary record, and it stays there. While the discplinary record is not a public record, if you apply to another school or apply for a job that requires academic transcripts, then that violation will become known to the individual or organization requesting your record. Depending on the case outcome and your school's particular policies, a disciplinary violation can also go on your academic transcript. Regardless of whether on your discplinary record or your academic transcript, however, if you are planning to apply or are already in the process of applying for another advanced degree, having an honor code violation can prevent you from being accepted to your school or program of choice.
If you are accused of violating the student code of conduct, you need to pull up your University's code of conduct and study the section of the code that you are accused of violating, as well as the sections that describe the procedure for violation accusations and the possible punishments.
Seek an Experienced Advisor
Considering the severe impact a code of conduct accusation can have on your academic and professional career, you need to take this very seriously. Code of conduct hearings have a court atmosphere to them, even though they are not true court proceedings. They are set up very similar to a trial. You may be tempted to represent yourself, thinking that it's not serious enough to warrant hiring an attorney, but everything you've worked for throughout your years of schooling could be at stake. Speaking with an attorney can help you look at the evidence objectively, from a neutral point of view. An attorney can help you understand your options and the potentials penalties and repercussions your facing, and an attorney can help you secure an outcome that protects your interests and your future.
Don't run the risk of losing everything you've worked so hard to get. Let attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm help you navigate this tough situation so that you can get back on with your life. Contact us today at 888-535-3686.